This guide explores online nursing schools in Georgia and provides information on obtaining Georgia nursing licensure, including projected salary data and resources for students and practitioners. It also describes how online nursing degrees work and helps you find your ideal program.
Why Attend Online Nursing Programs in Georgia?
Students interested in public health careers should consider online nursing programs in Georgia. The state’s Department of Public Health reports a severe shortage of nurses in this area of healthcare. Georgia is also one of the states hardest hit by a general nursing shortage in the U.S. due to the large numbers of retiring nurses.
To help train nurses quickly, schools in Georgia offer accelerated online RN programs. Nurses can also access hospital signing bonuses, loan forgiveness, and other perks, like home-loan down payments and flexible work schedules. Georgia’s college tuition rates are also lower than the national average.
Featured Online Programs
How to Become a Nurse in Georgia
Becoming a nurse in Georgia requires education and licensure. Aspiring professionals must earn a nursing degree before completing national licensure exams and applying to the state’s board of nursing. Like other states, Georgia does not allow nursing graduates to work without a valid license. The licensing exam and Georgia licensing application both charge a fee. You can find the state’s requirements in more detail below.
1. Choose the Path That’s Right for You
The minimum requirement for an RN in Georgia is an associate degree in nursing (ADN), but practical nurses can qualify with only LPN degrees. LPN programs are often only certificate programs, but their graduates have fewer opportunities for advancement. Graduates of associate programs may work as RNs, school nurses, and travel nurses. However, if you’re seeking advanced positions with higher pay and more career options, you should consider earning a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree.
2. Earn Your Nursing Degree
Earning a nursing degree at a college or university usually requires a high school diploma or GED certificate, with prerequisites including English, mathematics, and science. Schools may also require ACT or SAT scores for admission. Depending on which degree you pursue, your education can last anywhere from 2-11 years: You can earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor’s in four years, a master’s in six years, and a doctorate in 9-11 total years. Most nursing degrees include on-site clinical training in their curricula.
3. Pass the Licensing Exam and Earn Your License
After earning your degree, you must pass the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN before you can work as an RN or LPN in Georgia. Students should spend at least two months studying for the exam, reviewing written materials, and completing practice questions. The NCLEX-RN takes six hours to complete, while the NCLEX-PN takes five hours.
Online Nursing Degree Programs in Georgia
The demand for nurses makes the process of earning a nursing degree well worth the effort. The country’s nursing shortage, combined with an aging population, provides job security. Online nursing programs in Georgia offer flexibility to work or attend to other responsibilities while earning your degree, and some programs offer accelerated graduation timelines.
What Courses Are Part of an Online Nursing Degree Program in Georgia?
While course titles and content vary by school, online programs in Georgia often offer the three classes listed below on the road to a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. These classes introduce students to the basics of nursing practice, along with practical skills like identifying illnesses and conducting patient assessments.
Foundations of Nursing Practice
Students learn about the fundamental principles governing the practice of nursing. Course topics may include bioethics, disease prevention, evidence-based practice, health promotion, and patient-centered care.
Human Pathophysiology and Pharmacological Principles
This course examines concepts of pathophysiology and pharmacology that inform nursing practice. Understanding these concepts helps with analyzing and interpreting symptoms and signs of disease at different stages of the lifespan.
Physical Assessment and Health Promotion
This class teaches students to conduct health assessments, collect health histories, and perform physical examinations of diverse clients, including children, adults, and geriatric patients. The course also covers strategies for health maintenance, promotion, and restoration.
How Do Online Nursing Degree Programs Work?
Students with jobs, family obligations, or other commitments, along with those who don’t live near nursing schools, should consider online RN programs in Georgia. Distance learning can offer more flexible and affordable options than the traditional, on-campus experience. Some online nursing schools follow a set schedule, where students log in at specific times, while others allow enrollees to access lectures at any time. Hybrid delivery includes online and classroom learning, and some programs offer accelerated options.
Georgia schools offer online nursing programs at all levels. Distance learners typically complete their coursework online but must also log clinical hours in person at local hospitals or medical facilities to graduate.
CNA certification programs can take as little as 6-8 weeks to complete. Associate degrees require 1-2 years, and bachelor’s degrees generally take students four years of full-time enrollment. Master’s degrees typically require 2-4 years and doctorates can last 3-4 years or more. Admission requirements for online nursing programs generally mirror those of traditional programs.
Licensure requirements and scopes of practice vary by type of license. For example, Georgia imposes strict practice and prescriptive authority regulations on NPs, who must work under a protocol agreement with a supervising physician and cannot prescribe certain medications. The section below details the requirements for each nursing license available in Georgia.
Georgia nurses can take advantage of assistance programs, such as a mentoring program for public health nurses, and the Georgia Nurses Association Peer Assistance Program, which helps nurses keep their licenses while undergoing treatment for substance abuse disorders.
State Requirements by Nursing Type
Below, you will find information about the Georgia nursing licensure requirements for each license type, including required education and training, work experience, examinations, renewal, and continuing education credits for license maintenance.
Certified Nurse Assistant
Students can obtain state-approved CNA training in acute care facilities, high schools, home care agencies, nursing homes, post-secondary schools, and technical schools. As part of these programs, each student must log 16 hours in topics that include communication and interpersonal skills, infection control, safety, and law and ethics. They also learn basic nursing skills, such as taking and recording vital signs, recognizing abnormal changes, and providing restorative care.
Candidates must pass the NNAAP exam within one year of completing their training to become certified as a nurse aide and be added to the Georgia nurse aide registry. Exam costs vary depending on the testing site, and the exam itself consists of written and skills portions.
Biennial renewal requires documentation of working as a paid CNA for a minimum of eight hours each renewal period. If a CNA falls short of eight hours, they must retake the NNAAP exam. Georgia does not impose renewal fees.
After completing a qualifying nursing program, LPN candidates register for the NCLEX-PN exam, pay a fee, and submit their fingerprints to the state board for a background check. They must also provide proof of graduation from a nursing program in the form of transcripts. The NCLEX-PN tests entry-level nursing competency and takes six hours for completion.
Out-of-state LPNs can apply for Georgia licensure by endorsement. They must submit a fee, transcripts, verification of licensure from their licensing state(s), and documentation of graduation from nursing school, along with 500 hours as a practicing LPN within the previous four years — or, if it’s been longer than four years, they can apply for re-entry.
Acceptable continuing education providers include national credentialing organizations, the Georgia Nurses Association, the American Nurses Association, and Area Health Education Centers. Examples of non-acceptable continuing education courses include those of less than 30 minutes in duration, workplace orientations, or on-the-job training concerning new equipment, policies, or procedures.
Continuing Education: 20 hours within the licensing period
RNs must earn ADNs or higher. They must apply to the nursing board online and submit their fingerprints along with a fee. Each online program graduate must also provide transcripts and apply with a paper form.
The NCLEX-RN also has an associated fee. This six-hour exam tests nursing competency. RNs must also complete a 30-minute special research section, which does not count toward their score but informs future exam content.
Active RNs from other states can apply for licensure by endorsement with a paper application, academic transcripts, and a fee. To renew their licenses, each RN must complete 30 credits of continuing education from approved providers, such as those listed in the LPN section above. Alternatively, they may provide one of the following:
Verification of current certification from a national organization;
Coursework at an accredited academic program in respiratory therapy, informatics, or healthcare or business administration;
Proof of competency and 500 documented hours of active practice; or
Proof of completion of a board-approved re-entry or nursing education program.
NPs must first become licensed RNs, as outlined above, then earn a master of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP). NPs must apply to the board to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). They must also submit a Georgia RN license, official transcripts, verification of NP-level national certification in their specialty area, and a fee. Approved organizations for national certification include the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
Out-of-state RNs undergo the same process, but must hold a Georgia RN license when they apply. Georgia NPs must enter into a collaborative agreement with a physician to practice.
Those who want to prescribe medication must also submit an Advanced Practice Registered Nurses Protocol form to the Georgia medical board and apply for registration with the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. The same license renewal process applies to RNs and NPs in Georgia.
Yes. LPN programs usually take one year to complete. RNs must earn at least an ADN, which students typically complete in two years.
Does an Online Nursing Degree Have the Same Value as an On-Campus Degree?
Yes, the Georgia Board of Nursing licenses both online and on-campus program graduates. The only difference lies in the requirements for online graduates to use a mail-in application and provide academic transcripts.
How Hard Is It to Get Into Nursing School in Georgia?
It depends on the school or program. CNA and LPN programs may be easier to get into than graduate programs. Competitive schools, such as Emory University, may also impose more difficult admission requirements than others.
Is Georgia a Nurse Compact State?
Georgia joined the nurse licensure compact (NLC) in 2017. The NLC permits RNs and LPNs to practice under a multistate license in other NLC member states without having to be individually licensed in those states.
Georgia Nurse Salaries and Employment Trends
The data below show the average mean wages and projected job growth rates for nurses. While many factors affect actual salaries and job availability, the figures here provide estimates for Georgia as compared to the U.S. and nearby states.
Georgia’s annual mean wages fall below the figures for all U.S. states, but with increased education, Georgia wages fare better against those of its neighbors. RN and NP salaries in Georgia outpace other southern states.
Georgia is projected to experience a shortage of RNs and LPNs through 2030. While salaries and job growth rates for both categories of nurses remain fairly strong in the south, the projected shortfalls may mean increased job prospects, particularly in public health.
Nurse Salary and Projected Job Growth in Georgia, by Type
Georgia CNAs earned higher mean annual wages in 2018 than those in neighboring states, except Florida and Tennessee. The state’s projected job growth rate for this profession — 16% — beats Alabama (7%) and North Carolina (8%). Salary data and job growth projections indicate that CNAs should consider studying and working in Georgia, particularly in the Atlanta area, which ranks among the top 10 for highest employment level of CNAs in the U.S.
Licensed Practical Nurse
Graduates of Georgia LPN programs should find jobs in the state due to a projected shortage totaling 29%. Georgia LPNs brought home higher mean annual wages in 2018 than nearby southern states, except for Florida and North Carolina. The Atlanta metropolitan area offers the most opportunity for LPNs, with the eighth highest employment level in the country. Job growth projections for Georgia LPNs outpace Alabama and North Carolina, and fall just shy of South Carolina.
Georgia RNs make less than the national average, but more than RNs in neighboring southern states. Its projected job growth of 18% exceeds that of Alabama (13%) and North Carolina (16%). These solid numbers point to a stable employment climate for Georgia RNs, particularly in the Rome metropolitan area. Given the projected 2% shortfall of RNs through 2030, opportunities could continue to increase.
High NP salaries make it worthwhile for students to earn graduate degrees. Georgia NPs take home more than their counterparts in neighboring states, and the profession enjoys a 36% projected job growth. NPs in the Atlanta metro area earned a mean annual wage of $109,410 in 2018, which exceeds the state average of $106,750 and almost equals the U.S. average for the profession. Macon also offers opportunities, boasting the ninth-highest concentration of NP jobs among U.S. metropolitan areas.
Nursing Resources for Georgia
Georgia Nurses Association
As a chapter of the American Nurses Association, GNA supports the state's RNs with educational and networking events, job postings, professional development webinars, and political advocacy. The association also provides discounted continuing education opportunities.
Georgia Board of Nursing
The state nursing board licenses LPNs, RNs, and APRNs. The board also provides information on board-approved education, examinations, certifications, and continuing education providers, along with laws, rules, and policies applicable to the nursing profession.
United Advanced Practice Registered Nurses of Georgia
A member of CAPRN, this organization works to improve Georgians' access to healthcare while supporting and advocating for APRNs. Members can also access a career center, conference information, event listings, and news briefs.
Georgia Nursing Leadership Coalition
This coalition seeks to implement the Institute of Medicine's recommendations for the future of the nursing profession through leadership and collaboration with partners in healthcare, government, education, and consumer groups.